I hope all of my Hindu and Sikh constituents enjoyed celebrating Vaisakhi last week. And I send best wishes for Eid Al-Fitr to Muslim constituents enjoying the end of Ramadan this weekend.
DEBATE ON THE FINANCE BILL
On Tuesday, I took part in the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill. This legislation brings the measures from the Spring Budget into legal effect.
I took this opportunity to once again highlight the Government’s failure to bring down inflation by supporting businesses with energy costs. The Government cut energy support for businesses by 85% this month, which means that thousands of businesses are now forced to pass increased costs onto their consumers by raising prices. Amidst Government inaction, the latest inflation figures that came out this week show inflation is remaining stubbornly high at above 10%.
I also called for the Chancellor to restore tax credits to small and medium sized businesses that invest in research and development, after they were cut drastically last Autumn. The business community has been vocal about the damage caused by this decision and I am disappointed to see a lack of movement from the Government. Instead of a full restoration, the Government has only targeted tax credits at “research intensive” firms. Industry groups have warned that this new policy could lead to less innovation across the economy more widely. I also urged the Government to look at introducing further tax breaks for measures that are proven to boost productivity, such as training, digital adoption and energy efficiency.
MEDIA APPEARANCES THIS WEEK
On Monday evening, I appeared on LBC Cross Questions, a panel debate show hosted by Iain Dale.
Among the education topics discussed were the Prime Minister’s proposals to require maths instruction until the age of 18, and the ongoing industrial action by teachers and junior doctors. I raised a particular point on financial literacy. Although I am strongly in favour of measures to support numeracy, I do not believe the Government’s plan is the right one. I would like to see a stronger emphasis put on teaching students the basic principles of accounting, to offer instruction that will help them make sound personal financial decisions as they grow older.
I also took the time to challenge the Conservative Party Chairman’s assertion that public services in the U.K. are in ‘great shape.' This comment shows just out of touch how many Conservative MPs are. Their continuous budget cuts have left many of my constituents struggling to get a GP appointment, waiting hours in A&E or waiting months or even years to get mental health care for their children. You can see a clip of this section here.
I am delighted to be appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions’ programme this evening. Should constituents wish to listen in, they can do so here, or by tuning into BBC Radio 4 at 8pm. If you miss the programme live, you will be able to catch up here.
PAC ON MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Yesterday, in the Public Accounts Committee, we held a hearing on ‘Improving Mental Health Services’ with officials from the Department of Health.
I raised my concerns about the mental health services available to my constituents in Richmond Park, and asked what more can be done for family and friends whose loved ones are waiting for care. In her response, Claire Murdoch, National Lead for Mental Health, NHS England, detailed the sessions available to some parents through mental health support teams in schools, which is something she will continue to work on rolling out and optimising.
I look forward to continuing to raise this important issue going forward, working to improve mental health services in Richmond Park. You can see a clip of my question here.
APPG ON AIRPORT COMMUNITIES
This week, I was very pleased to be re-selected as the Vice Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Airport Communities. This group was originally formed to examine the impact airport operations have on local communities. Over time we have used our position to press Heathrow and other airports towards being better, more considerate neighbours.
During the meeting, I was very interested to learn that Heathrow is still preserving the land where they wanted to site the third runway from any other type of estate development. This has meant the airport has been unable to increase its efficiency by moving terminals or building infrastructure. I hope that over the coming year Heathrow will accept that the third runway will never be built, and the shadow of this project will finally be lifted from Richmond Park.
MY CAMPAIGN TO BRING BACK RICHMOND POLICE STATION
This week I am renewing my call for the Metropolitan Police to establish a new police station in Richmond town centre.
When Sovereign Gate police station closed in 2017, Richmond’s police forces were rehomed two miles away across the river in Twickenham. Since then, I have had many residents tell me that they ha
ve witnessed a rise in car thefts, burglaries, and anti-social behaviour. These are crimes that a strong local police presence can help deter, but without a permanent presence in our community, the Met are increasingly struggling to achieve this goal.
As part of the service’s turnaround plan, devised to restore trust in the Met, police leaders are proposing a review of their estates strategy -- the strategy that governs physical police locations. I hope to be able to show the police that there is overwhelming local support for a new police station in our community. For this reason, I have started a petition to bring back Richmond Police station.
If, like me, you believe our streets would be safer with a police station in the heart of Richmond, I would urge you to join my calls and sign with the link here.
CALL FOR NOMINATIONS FOR THE NHS PARLIAMENTARY AWARDS
I am pleased to be participating in the NHS Parliamentary Awards to showcase and honour the best healthcare workers and teams in our area. I encourage my constituents to send me examples they think deserve national recognition.
There are ten categories, covering key areas such as mental health and primary and community care, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award for someone who has contributed to the success of the NHS for 40 years or more, and the Rising Star award for someone who has, despite being young in years, made a significant contribution to our local service.
EMERGENCY ALERT TEST THIS SUNDAY
At 3 pm on Sunday April 23rd, the Government will be testing the UK’s new emergency alert system. Your phone will sound a brief, 10 second siren and vibrate on maximum power. After the siren has finished, you can then acknowledge the alert in the same way you cancel a timed alarm.
This alert system has been put in place for serious national and local emergencies, such as flooding, hurricanes, or fires. The technology puts a signal out directly from telephone towers to all phones in reach, meaning the system does not have access to your personal phone number or private data. If you are driving during the alert, the Government has advised that you must not pick up your phone to cancel the alarm, but should pull over to a safe location.
This test has the potential to impact victims of domestic abuse or control who possess a secret phone. If anyone you know might fit into this category, please take a moment to warn them to fully power off their device before 3 pm. If you need more advice or information, follow the link here.
REWILDING ARCADIA PROJECT
The Rewilding Arcadia Project is an initiatives of the Thames Landscape Strategy, which was formed to conserve, promote and enhance for the future one the river landscape between Weybridge and Kew. The Thames Landscape Strategy is a non-profit partnership organisation consisting of 14 major riverside landowners, including Kingston and Richmond boroughs, Kew Gardens, Royal Parks, the National Trust and English Heritage. Local partners include Habitats and Heritage, Environment Trust for Richmond upon Thames, the Kew Society, Kingston upon Thames Society, the Richmond Society, Canbury and Riverside Association (CARA), The Ham and Petersham Association and Ham Amenities Group.
This winter has seen lots of conservation work by Habitats and Heritage in locations along the Arcadian Thames. Enthusiastic volunteers laid a hedge along Great South Avenue in Ham using the traditional Midlands style with 150 diverse baby hedgerow species planted in the gaps. This method has been used for hundreds of years and is a fantastic habitat for birds, bats, bugs, badgers and hedgehogs.
Bird nesting season started in March so vegetation work has stopped until September, but they have lots of other activities and work to do this spring and summer. Please email email@example.com if you have any questions or would like to take part in any upcoming events.
SOUTH WEST LONDON MENTAL HEALTH CARERS FORUM
Local residents are invited to come along to this virtual forum for people caring for someone with mental
illness. You can hear all the latest news and views affecting carers in Southwest London and have your voice heard. This event will be on Monday 24th April, from 4pm – 5:30 pm, via Zoom. To book, click here.
BIODIVERSITY ACTION PLAN
Kingston is launching its first ever Biodiversity Action Plan. Kingston Council wants to show how a London borough can conserve and enhance biodiversity, creating an environment in which humans and wildlife can thrive, and contributing to the overall health of the planet. Interested residents can find our more about this initiative by listening to their Biodiversity Officer, Elliot Newton, talk about it here.
KINGSTON MAKER'S MARKET
Residents who love all things handmade are invited to come along and support local artists and crafters at NMBH's Maker's Market in the Market House, held on the last Sunday of each month. The next one will be on April 30 from 10:30 - 4:00. Find out more.
NEW SCHOOL STREETS TRIAL IN EAST SHEEN
On Monday, a trial for a new school street scheme for Thomson House School will begin, with a restricted area put in place on Vernon Road, South Worple Way, Howgate Road and Oaklands Road in East Sheen (near Mortlake Station.) This will restrict access to vehicles along these roads between 8:00 am and 8:45 am and 3:00 pm and 4:15 pm during term time only.
Residents and businesses located inside the zone, along with taxis, healthcare workers, tradespeople, delivery vehicles and blue badge holders visiting a location within the zone will all be exempt. Any vehicle can exit the area at any time and residents will have access to permits to help identify visitors. The council will be running a consultation on the school street once it is in place and I would encourage any local resident interested to put forward their views.
RUILS SOCIAL HOUSING DISREPAIR CAMPAIGN
Local charity RUILS is working with Multicultural Richmond and a network of other voluntary organisations to collect feedback from Richmond social housing tenants on their experiences with disrepairs. You can share your experience by clicking here to fill out their quick survey.
Alternatively, you are invited to come along to St Mary's Church, Mortlake High Street, on Thursday April 27 from 11:30 - 1:30 to share your disrepairs issues with our team and meet housing support organisations in the borough that can help you. No booking required, just drop in. Free lunch provided. Click here for more information.
WHITE RIBBON WALK IN RICHMOND
Richmond Violence Against Women and Girls Community Forum will be holding its next the White Ribbon Walk this Saturday at 12pm in North Richmond. The walk will be leaving from Sainsburys Manor Road. See poster below for details of how you can come and show support for the safety of women and girls. Men and boys are particularly encouraged to take part.